Anyone who has worked in aviation will agree that being cabin crew, a pilot, engineer, ground staff etc etc is more than just a job, it’s a lifestyle.
So when Coronavirus crippled our beloved industry and caused thousands of aviation staff to lose their jobs it wasn’t just the job they were losing, it was their way of life.
However. There IS life after flying and here at Confessions of a Trolley Dolly we wanted to share a few stories from our lovely followers who have hung up their wings or been forced to have their wings temporarily clipped….
Nickie took voluntary redundancy from British Airways at the end of July after 22 years, 21 of which were on long-haul and now works as a prison officer…..
“I loved it. I went to the most amazing places, met the most amazing people and most of all I had so much fun. At one point I was in my favourite city New York more than I was at home and I loved it. It felt like home, I was so lucky.”
But after 19 years flying full time it stopped being as much fun and the cabin crew lifestyle was starting to wear Nickie down. “I was so tired and as I was never at home to catch up with myself I started to dread going away. So I made myself a promise to be in a position to take voluntary redundancy the next time they offered it. When that time came in 2020 it was actually a relief to press the button and say I’d done it.”
From dealing with passengers at 39,000 feet to dealing with prisoners, Nickie now works as a prison officer and she absolutely loves her career change. “It brings its own set of challenges and rewards. It’s amazing how many skills I learned while flying that now come naturally to me and I use daily in my new role. Flying life is an amazing one but never underestimate the life skills it teaches you and just how transferable they are.”
So would Nickie ever go back to flying again? “No. I knew once I left I would be done. I love sleeping in my own bed every night and working with the same team of people every day. Yes it has been very emotional at times and yes there are some things I miss, like New York….I SO miss New York. I haven’t flown for 6 months and and I feel 10 years younger!”
“It’s easy to forget that there’s anything else out there for you. I’m so grateful for my time flying but I’m so glad I took the leap to start again.”
Callum had worked for UK low-cost carrier Jet2.com since 2017 but has since been made redundant due to the pandemic.
“I was devastated that I got my redundancy letter. It took me ages to open it I read the first couple of lines and I broke down in tears. I still haven’t got over losing my wings,” Callum explained.
For the first six months of the pandemic Callum remained on furlough from his airline and so, hoping that the whole thing would soon blow over and he would be back in the skies he didn’t look for a job. “In October last year I got a temporary job working in retail but when I was made redundant I realised I’d need something more permanent. I started applying for jobs left right and centre and finally in January I bagged myself a new role in a residential home as a care assistant on the front line. I’m also a member of the Project Wingman charity helping to give back to the NHS.”
But flying remains Callum’s passion and he explained how he ‘would go back in a heart beat’. “I miss flying so much I feel like a part of my heart has been ripped out and flown away (pardon the pun) but I would go back to it tomorrow if I could.”
“My advice to anyone who has lost their wings, been made redundant or took voluntary redundancy, is to never give up! Maybe it’s time for a career change? Or maybe this is just a break from what you love doing? Either way don’t let losing your wings bring you down because you earned them and you deserve them. Pick yourself up and get out there and apply for jobs and maybe when things pick up look at new airlines that have their applications open for crew and be ready again for those 2/3/4/5/6am standby call outs!”
Elaine had worked for various airlines over the years, including eight at Virgin Atlantic.
“I actually left flying back in 2014 but I decided to go back to Virgin in February 2020. I had moved back down south, got my wings again, operated two flights and then Coronavirus hit.”
Like most of us Elaine thought that this would all blow over in a few months and began to enjoy her time on furlough. “But then talks of redundancies hit the airwaves and so I thought last in first out, while secretly hoping that wouldn’t be the case.” Sadly for Elaine and almost 3,000 other Virgin crew redundancies did take place and Elaine knew she would have to think of a plan B.
“I managed to get a job at Sainsbury’s as an online assistant while I was still living down south. But when my tenancy ran out in Crawley I decided to move back up north in August and was lucky enough to transfer my Sainsbury’s job up here. It’s been a godsend to be honest. When lots of other companies were going under I felt very secure there.”
“Then in October I decided to set up my own little business. Something to help keep me occupied and also to earn a little extra income and do something I knew would enjoy. So I set up my own ETSY shop ‘The Rustic Match Co.’ selling decorative jars of matches that not only look cute but are also useful. It took a lot of hard work, researching all the things I would need, how to do it and how I would sell it. But I absolutely loved it the day I went live.”
But Elaine wanted to do more and has recently started as an admin clerk at her local hospital in the COVID vaccinations hub. “I do three 12 hour shifts and I kept my job at Sainsbury’s at weekends just to play it safe and be secure.”
“I do miss flying but I suppose I didn’t get that opportunity to miss it as much as others who had been there a lot longer than myself. But it was still something I wanted to go back in to and I felt cheated out of the opportunity because of COVID-19.”
Elaine still hopes to get back in to the skies once things slowly begin to return to normal but like many of us, she worries about what the industry will be like moving forward, “I am in a redundancy pool to be able to go back in the future but I do wonder what we’ll actually go back to and whether it will ever be the same again?”
“I still remember getting that phone call back in 2011 to say that I had been successful in my interview and I had got my first job flying with Monarch Airlines,” Matt explained. “It was a dream come true after many unsuccessful open days, application forms and interviews.”
From Monarch Matt went on to fly for Norwegian and then British Airways.
“When the news was really ramping up about a new virus that was spreading around the world, I remember flying from Seoul, with six customers on board and half of the company furloughed.”
Matt decided there and then that it was time to hang up his wings and wrote an email to hand in his resignation. “Having worked for NHS before hand, I decided that as a healthcare professional it was time to give up my dream of flying and help those in need. I was scared, scared of the unknown, scared of leaving the job that I truly loved, scared of not seeing my flying friends anymore and most importantly, I was scared not knowing if I could manage a full time job on the ground. I joined my local emergency department as an Emergency Senior Nursing Assistant (ESNA).”
“The first few months were tough. The first lockdown actually gave us a break within the hospital walls, this gave me time to miss my job and flying to all those wonderful destinations. My friends and family were constantly texting me making sure I was ok. I was missing my life really badly and I considered contacting my former airline to ask form job back. However a few weeks later we got more and more busy, I was working 12.5 hours shifts 4-5 times a week with the NHS wanting us to do overtime. Not having time to think about my airline job I soon realised that my true love and passion is with healthcare.”
“Looking back, I’ve had the best job in the world, flying the flag for one of the most recognised airlines globally, making memories, meeting people and exploring the planet. However I quickly realised that all of that did not give me the feeling of accomplishment I wanted. Working in healthcare is super rewarding, it gives you the sense of satisfaction knowing that you truly made a huge difference to someone’s life.”
“Do I miss flying? Absolutely yes! There is no other job like it. Will I go back to it again? Probably not (although I would love to have my “last flight” as this never happened for me) and as much as I miss my friends, nights out in Singapore, lazy pool days in Lagos and amazing sunsets in Cape Town, I realised that life after flying isn’t as bad as a lot of us think it is.”
Marie started flying back in 2018 with Travel Service Airlines, later known as Smartwings.
She explained, “I remember telling myself ‘This is it, this is where I want to live forever – in the skies’. I loved every bit of it – early/late flights, never-ending services, challenging passengers, missed birthdays and holidays, restless days and nights. Breakfast in London, lunch in Amsterdam, dinner in Prague. I could not imagine living another life or having another job. I have a gypsy soul, spontaneous and wild.”
In 2019 Marie became a member of Aer Lingus. Sadly the excitement didn’t last long and in March 2020, like so many others her wings were temporarily clipped.
“I hid myself from reality and decided to travel as much as I was allowed at that time. This kept me going until September 2020 when the dark clouds above my head started to grow and I was imprisoned in a world I did not understand. I tried to see the world around me in full colours but I could not, so I gave up.”
Marie explained how the 9 to 5 world was really not for her. Instead she wanted to use the skills she had learned during her flying career to give something back and so in December 2020 she moved to the UK and found herself a job in the NHS as a personal carer.
“Without previous experience or knowledge I was suddenly standing in front of another challenge. But I did not give up and swallowed my fear and doubts. I missed Christmas with my family and have had many restless days and nights. Very similar lifestyle to cabin crew one to be honest.”
“I miss flying, a lot. I think about it every day, browsing airlines career sites all the time. I won’t lose my hope and I strongly believe I will be back in skies soon. I feel my journey up there has not been finished yet and I am not willing to give up on my dreams.”
Marie has one final word for anyone who may feel lost right now, “Dear dollies, there is a life after flying. All you need to do is to believe. Where there is a hope, there is everything. I wish you all to find your inner peace and happiness no matter where you are or what you are doing.”
Shauna left her four year flying career behind following the demise of the much-loved Thomas Cook in September 2019.
“I was working a long haul flight to Las Vegas on September 22nd and found out later that evening that the company had gone bust and we all had no job and no way of getting back to the UK.”
“When I eventually got home I decided not to apply for another airline. I felt like there wasn’t many jobs available and I knew how many other crew were applying. I had recently brought my first house and only paid two mortgage payments and I decided that I needed to get a more secure job that would support me” Shauna explained. “I was going to apply again after a 12 month break. But then along came COVID and the industry closed down.”
For now however Shauna’s feet remain firmly on the ground “I would love to return to the skies but the jobs are not available at the moment and now I have a mortgage.”
But Shauna hasn’t given up her dream “I miss flying so much. It’s a way of life and nothing comes close to the feeling of being happy in a job like I did when I was cabin crew.”
Jordan, author of the fabulous blog passportsandpants.com worked for Virgin Atlantic before the pandemic hit. In her latest post ‘From 40,000 feet to Frontline’ Jordan explains how cabin crew’s aviation medical training has set so many of us up to leave behind the drinks trollies and designer uniforms, and step forward and help our incredible NHS in whatever we can either through volunteering with the amazing Project Wingman, helping out with the track and trace programme and getting involved with the roll out of the vaccination programme which Jordan will be doing herself.
“Airline crew are the perfect candidates for this, not only because of the training they have completed to pass qualifications to fly, but also because they are used to taking extra training, and processing new information, so can ensure they train fully to ensure patient safety, and protect the integrity of the vaccine programme. I’m really looking forward to starting work volunteering on the vaccine rollout next week. After this virus has destroyed the lives of so many, and essentially decimated the aviation industry, I can’t wait to do something to contribute to making life safer and normal again.”
If you have been made redundant and are unsure of what to do next we’ve come up with some helpful hints and tips to help you guide your way through – ‘Dealing With Redundancy’
Do you have your own life after flying story to tell? If so send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org or pop yours in the comments below.
© confessionsofatrolleydolly.com by Dan Air.